County employees follow new Lactation Accommodation Policy – Santa Cruz Sentinel


SANTA CRUZ — With a new Lactation Accommodation Policy in place, female county employees have the support of their Santa Cruz County Supervisors and coworkers in providing the best nutrition for babies and in continuing to work as new moms.

“Women are an incredibly important part of our workforce,” said 1st District Supervisor John Leopold. The policy “helps them be a great parent… and contribute to the overall health of the community.”

The United States Breastfeeding Committee officially made August Breastfeeding Awareness Month in 2011, according to CBS42.

It’s a joyous family life for County Public Health nurse Deanna Mercado, her daughter Poppy, husband Daniel Lutz and son Brooks. Mercado has a designated place to pump/breastfeed at work, thanks to a Lactation Accommodation Policy for county employees. (Shmuel Thaler — Santa Cruz Sentinel)

Mothers and breastfeeding advocates thanked the Board of Supervisors last week for making August Breastfeeding Awareness Month and for implementing a Lactation Accommodation Policy.

While there are lactation laws in place, “having a policy legitimizes the organization’s commitment to its workforce and ensures that all employees are informed of the organization’s support of lactating employees,” said Dana Wagner, chair of the Santa Cruz County Breastfeeding Coalition.

The Board of Supervisors first recognized Breastfeeding Awareness Month about 13 years ago, according to Leopold. The county implemented the policy for county employees in May.

The new policy was created by a collaboration between the Breastfeeding Coalition, County of Santa Cruz Health Services Agency and the Personnel Department, according to a press release.

The policy promotes a breastfeeding-friendly and inclusive work environment and prohibits discrimination, harassment or retaliation against lactating employees. Employees can take breaks for breastfeeding/pumping during their regularly scheduled breaks when possible and can work out longer or more breaks with the employer if needed. The time to travel to space for breastfeeding is not included as part of the break time. An appropriate space for breastfeeding/pumping should be private and able to lock and have an electrical outlet, comfortable seating and in close proximity to a water supply. Restrooms aren’t considered appropriate spaces.

Deanna Mercado is one county employee who uses the accommodation policy.

County Public Health nurse Deanna Mercado gets some one-on-one time with her 9-month old daughter Poppy. (Shmuel Thaler — Santa Cruz Sentinel)

Mercado has a 2-year-old son, Brooks, and a 9-month-old daughter, Poppy. As a county public health nurse, she has two 20-minute breaks when she can pump, along with a lunch break. She has a private room where she and another coworker can pump/breastfeed and a refrigerator where they can store their milk.

The Santa Cruz County building, 701 Ocean St., also has a lactation room on the third floor for county employees to use.

Having the Lactation Accommodation Policy helps change people’s attitudes toward working mothers who are breastfeeding, said Mercado.

“I feel like I have my independence and still have my career,” Mercado said.

Being able to pump at work gives Mercado peace of mind and a sense of security that she can provide her child with good nutrition while she is away, Mercado said. She said she feels respect and support from coworkers for breastfeeding/pumping and she isn’t “judged for doing what I have to do.”

“It’s tough enough to go back to work after having a child,” Mercado said. When you have the support and tools… you take away factors that make it hard to come back.”

County Health Officer Gail Newel said the workplace has gotten much better for women who want to continue to breastfeed or pump while at work.

Moms and breastfeeding advocates thanked County Supervisors for recognizing August as Breastfeeding Awareness Month last week. From left: Supervisor Ryan Coonerty, Kathryne Rockwood, Elizabeth Ortega, Angela Chesnut, Ximena Swarts and Kimlin McDaniel-Keith. (Contributed: Corinne Hyland)

“I’m not going to say it’s easy now, but there have been tremendous improvements and protections,” Newel said. “Respect and support is improving, but there will always be some resistance because it (breastfeeding/pumping) does take time and attention away from work.”

Breastfeeding benefits moms, children and the community, Newel said. Breastfeeding lowers rates of infection in babies, meaning parents miss less work to take their children to the doctor and then less infection is spread throughout the community. Breastfeeding decreases a mother’s risk of breast cancer or gynecological cancer, as well as risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes, she said.

“Healthier families means a healthier community,” Newel said.

Children have multiple benefits from breastfeeding. Babies/children experience fewer respiratory tract infections, gastrointestinal tract infections and are at lower risk for allergies and diabetes, according to a study by the American Academy of Pediatrics. The study also showed that for mothers who do not breastfeed or who stop breastfeeding early, there is an increase in postpartum depression.

Breastfeeding also benefits the economy. If 90% of U.S. mothers breastfed exclusively for six months, $13 billion per year would be saved in health care, according to the study.

August is celebrated across the world as Breastfeeding Awareness Month. This year’s theme of World Breastfeeding Month is Empower Parents, Enable Breastfeeding. The 13th annual Breastfeeding Health Fair and Walk is from 3-6 p.m. Aug. 23 at the Watsonville Plaza. The event will be hosted by Community Bridges’ Women Infants & Children Nutrition Program. It will include family activities, a DJ, community resource booths, healthy snacks, free T-shirts, raffles and more.

Employers interested in implementing the Lactation Accommodation Policy or making the workplace more mother and baby-friendly can contact the county breastfeeding coordinator at familyhealth@santacruzcounty.us.



Source link